WRV baseball repeats state championship feat a third time

  • The VPA Division IV state champion White River Valley baseball team takes a victory lap around the South Royalton, Vt., green with a police and fire department escort on their return from a 5-4 win over Blue Mountain in Burlington on Friday, June 11, 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

  • As the White River Valley baseball team approaches on their victory parade through South Royalton, Vt., from left, Auroara Evans, Robynn Martin, Susi Poland and Emmy Poland, raise a cheer on Friday, June 11, 2022. The Wildcats won their VPA Division IV state final with Blue Mountain 5-4. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2022 10:06:46 PM
Modified: 6/11/2022 7:33:50 AM

BURLINGTON — When White River Valley and Blue Mountain met for the VPA Division IV baseball title last season, the Wildcats were clearly Goliath. They had won 34 straight games since the merger of South Royalton and Whitcomb-Rochester, and WRV routed the Bucks by 14 runs to leave no doubt about who was the best team in the division.

With most of that championship roster back in the fold, the Cats have been a powerhouse squad again this year. But when the team returned to Centennial Field for a title rematch with Blue Mountain on Friday evening, White River Valley was David.

This time, it was the Bucks who entered as the undefeated No. 1 seed. They had won all but one game by at least six runs and scored at least 20 on four occasions. The Wildcats, meanwhile, were seeded second and came in with four losses.

But behind a pair of timely hits and a gutsy pitching performance from junior Robby McShinsky, WRV claimed its third consecutive state title with a gritty 5-4 victory.

“Overall, it wasn’t really that different,” Wildcats head coach Devin Cilley said. “(Blue Mountain) has a wonderful program, wonderful coaches, and we have the same, and it’s been that way for a long time. It’s nice when it’s Blue Mountain and White River Valley, because I really feel that we put in a lot of time and effort, and we deserve to be here every year. We’ve been here a lot.”

The Bucks opened the scoring in the bottom of the first inning, but McShinsky got two pop-ups to strand runners at second and third. WRV (15-4) put two in scoring position with nobody out in its half of the second but was in danger of letting a scoring chance slip away after back-to-back strikeouts. Freshman Donovan Craven, though, delivered a two-run single to right that gave the Wildcats the lead.

WRV extended that advantage in the fourth on another two-run single, this one off the bat of senior Jamesen Roussel. But Blue Mountain rallied to tie the game in the bottom half, taking advantage of two infield hits and an error, cashing in with Brody Kingsbury’s two-run double. It could have gotten much worse for the Wildcats, but McShinsky retired three straight batters to leave a runner on third.

McShinsky got the start because senior ace Dominic Craven had thrown 116 pitches in WRV’s semifinal win over Arlington on Tuesday, making him ineligible to pitch on just two days’ rest. The junior got stronger as the game progressed against a powerful lineup, with four of his five strikeouts coming in the last two innings.

“I was pretty nervous, but I knew my team had my back,” McShinsky said. “We just kept battling to the end.”

The Wildcats took the lead for good in the sixth on a wild pitch that scored senior Austin Tracy. McShinsky struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth but allowed the leadoff hitter in the seventh to reach when he couldn’t field a bunt cleanly.

The next batter also tried to bunt but missed, and freshman catcher Brayden Russ threw out the hesitating runner at second. Another strikeout and a routine fly to center secured the game and the championship.

WRV loses an influential senior class that won three state titles and could well have taken home a fourth had the 2020 season not been canceled due to COVID-19. Dominic Craven, Roussel, Tracy, Arliss Spaulding, Weston Trombly, Macin Gaudette, Mason Gauthier, Cody Scott and Matt Lincoln will all be graduating.

But with McShinsky, Russ and Donovan Craven back, the Cats are well-positioned for more trips to Centennial in the near future, even with the team slated to return to Division III next season.

“The boys battled and they got through it,” Cilley said. “That last inning was huge. It’s been another wonderful year, and I’m so proud of the boys for everything they’ve done. Really excited to win another one.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at brosenberg@vnews.com or 603-727-3302.

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